Market Insight

Nielsen moves further into addressable TV with Sorenson Media acquisition

March 15, 2019

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Information and measurement company Nielsen has unveiled addressable initiative Nielsen Advanced Video Advertising after acquiring US addressable TV technology provider Sorenson Media for $11.3 million in a bankruptcy auction.

Sorenson Media’s technology enables broadcasters to sell inventory with dynamically inserted ads targeted to specific households. The group filed for bankruptcy in late 2018 to disentangle itself from Sinclair Broadcasting, after signing a contract which required minimum guaranteed payments to Sinclair.

Nielsen has jumped on this opportunity by adding Sorenson to its blossoming addressable tech stack. The new initiative will combine Sorenson’s addressable capabilities with Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology, which Nielsen gained through its 2017 acquisition of Gracenote.

Our analysis

The Sorenson acquisition is Nielsen’s latest attempt to move beyond its traditional panel data towards a more advanced audience approach.

To support this, in 2017 Nielsen acquired Gracenote, including its ACR technology. This enables Nielsen to gather audience behaviour insights from viewers of smart TVs and connected devices in real time - such as the time spent engaging with content, and what channels or services users turn over from. This supports ad campaign optimisation in the same fashion as online advertising. Gracenote was available in 27 million smart TVs across eight global consumer electronics brands at the time of the acquisition.

ACR tech is the foundation of Nielsen’s Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) trial on linear TV which began in 2018 with CBS and A+E Networks. Nielsen added Smart TV platform MediaTek, which powers several US smart TV brands, in late 2018. Using Sorenson’s capabilities means Nielsen can now scale up its ability to create enhanced audience segments, by leveraging first party data from smart TV manufacturers using ACR. With these components in place, the opportunity for standardised measurement and insights into viewing behaviour surrounding addressable ads on traditional TV will be much more tangible than before.

For this approach to work, viewers do need to consent to the use of ACR tech upon setting up their smart TVs; but Nielsen’s established relationship with the public and the safeguards that addressable TV can employ should help limit privacy concerns.

This dynamic response to measuring changing viewing habit may lead to an unwieldy ecosystem that will eventually need to be refined and simplified, similar to what is now happening among leading ad platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

IHS Markit does not expect this response to involve a pivot away from measurement towards the creation of another ad tech vendor. The obvious conflict of interest, meaning Nielsen selling inventory and placing ads before then measuring their performances, might raise transparency concerns among advertisers. While Nielsen’s future is not entirely clear, it seems intent on leading addressable TV measurement for now, which should accelerate addressable TV’s push into the mainstream. Ultimately, it is looking to offer a common currency for addressable TV measurement, easing concerns about transparency and making addressable inventory more attractive to ad buyers.

Research by Market
Media & Advertising
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